Marco Salinas, Head Chef at Awasi Patagonia – Relais Chateaux, has travelled far and wide.

Awasi Patagonia

Awasi Patagonia – Relais & Chateaux – Torres del Paine, Chile

Before starting at our 14 villa lodge overlooking the Torres del Paine National Park, Chef Marco was working in Europe.

“I started my career in Paris at the Royal Monceau Palace as a trainee and then as a kitchen assistant. My chef Marc Tauch sent me to the chef who taught him, Bruno Cirino (a michelin-star winning Italian chef famous for producing innovative, visually stunning – not to mention delicious – dishes), so that he could train me as he did with him.”

“It was very hard, but I learned the discipline in the kitchen, and the passion that makes us chefs; chefs live and dream this passion.”

If truth be told, everyone at Awasi Patagonia has come a long way.

Located deep in Chilean Patagonia, about 2,500 kilometres South of the capital Santiago, Torres del Paine is a vast, 2,000 square kilometre expanse made up of glaciers, lakes, rivers and mountains, not to mention the towering spires that give the park its name.

The epic landscapes of Torres del Paine, Patagonia

Awasi Patagonia’s remote location and iconic view over the towers themselves is a unique setting for a chef to find himself, offering up inspiration and challenges in equal measure.

“Working in remote locations, I particularly enjoy working with local produce” explains Marco.

There are no last-minute deliveries in Patagonia. The nearest airports of Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas are both several hours away, driving the emphasis towards what is freshly available and locally sourced.

“The greatest, and at the same time the most enticing, challenge is to express and articulate our passion whilst working in such a remote location.”

The remoteness encourages the use of local ingredients, including those sourced from the icy seas and lakes to the West, and foraged over the Patagonian plains themselves. 

In Patagonia the star ingredients are lamb, king crab, deep-sea fish and calafate (a hardy shrub bearing small yellow flowers and dark blue berries, common across the Patagonian moors). These are my key ingredients” explains Marco.

“My cuisine is inspired by local produce, using culinary techniques that respect and bring the best out of these ingredients.”

Much of Marco’s cooking is inspired by the culture of this wild and windswept land – not only the ingredients, but the cooking techniques themselves.

Gauchos on horseback drive herds of sheep across the grassland as they have done for generations, sheltering from the elements to cook lamb in cast iron pans, or slow roasted on open wood-fuelled fires over many hours to give the horsemen time to do their work.

“Braised meats, dishes that require a huge amount of time and dedication” is Marco’s inspiration for the menu he and his team have pulled together this season at Awasi, mirroring and honouring the techniques introduced by the earliest settlers and herders.

A true taste of Patagonia, enhanced with rich seasonings of salt, pepper, dried red pepper and paprika, with generous dashings of garlic, oil and vinegar.

The nostalgic taste of smokey wood from long-lived embers is never far away, reminiscent of the gauchos circled round a fire out on the steppe.

Slow, time-consuming, requiring an investment of time and effort that will not bear immediate results, such techniques reflect the pace of life here, far from the rush of urban activity further North.

“It is like a Japanese bladesmith forging iron for a knife, it is a work born from effort” describes Marco.

But worth it nonetheless. The extra time spent allows Marco and his team to extract every bit of flavour and bring out the best of every ingredient, producing hearty meals – perfect after a day exploring the wonders of Torres del Paine – balanced with a delicate array of local flavours.

Ensuring we provide an unforgettable experience to the diner through our cooking involves making certain sacrifices,” says Chef Marco Salinas, “but it is worth it; the enormous gratification when a guest thanks us because they feel the love, passion and effort that has gone in to the food that we serve is the greatest thing about being a chef. We transmit experiences and heart through what we do.”

All the 14 villas at Awasi Patagonia have views of the iconic “towers” of Torres del Paine mountain range